The Neanderthal in Us


The Neanderthal. He was said to be the "First European", our mystic brother out of the ice age. Nobody knows exactly,  why he disappeared 30.000 years ago. It was in 1856 when the first bones of this prehistoric man where discovered in Germany. Since that time the Neanderthal is surrounded by mystery. How much of him does still exist inside us?

For more than 13 years scientists of the Max-Planck-institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig have been working on the deciphering of the Neanderthal genome. They had four major questions.

  • How much of the Neanderthal does exist in our inside?
  • Why did the Neanderthal become extinct?
  • What does the small genetic difference mean (0,5 per cent!)?
  • So what makes us – the modern humans - special?

The results of the analysis where totally unexpected and change our picture   of  the human evolution: Every modern human being has a small Neanderthal inside himself - except the African population. From two to four percent of our genes are inherited from this extinct brother. Authors of the production company History Media from Germany had an exclusive access to the scientists of the MPI for a huge documentary.  Svante Pääbo, who became famous all over the world as a pioneer of paleo-genetics and his team lead the viewer on an exciting expedition to the mysteries of mankind.The film describes how the scientists compete for the breakthrough.

Again and again, Professor Svante Pääbo and his team with scientists from Germany, France and the USA have been confronted with harsh backlashes. Their ambitious project seems to fail for several times. But at the end their enthusiasm will be highly rewarded.

At original sites and during excavations in Germany, Croatia and Spain, the documentary shows the difficult search for sufficient samples and tells the rise of the "myth Neanderthal" in impressive re-enactments.  Since the first incidental discovery of Neanderthal bones, he occupies the imagination and hasn't lost any of his fascination.The documentary provides new answers for some of the most thrilling questions of mankind. After watching this film the audience will look at the  world with different eyes.


Producer: History Media
Production year: 2010
Broadcasters: arte, ZDF
Languages: English, German